For every Hawkeye not named Nicholas Baer, Friday will be the first time they get to participate in the NCAA Tournament. But most of these guys grew up loving the game of basketball, so they all have their fond memories of March Madness.
Some with a more direct experience than others.
“We played Vanderbilt. We were a 13-seed, and we beat them by 20,” said Iowa sophomore guard Connor McCaffery. “And I remember just being in the hotel. I went to the practice with the team. I was shooting on the court, so that was my first memory and that’s one that I’ll always remember. It was so fun… Now I’m here being on the team myself. This is the dream.”
While McCaffery had a front row seat with his dad at Sienna, others were dreaming of what it would be like at the Big Dance.
“It’s been surreal,” Iowa junior forward Ryan Kriener said. “I’ve just been thinking about all the times I was a kid in the driveway shooting hoops, counting down the clock, thinking about the moments in your head using your imagination. To finally be here and get to live it it’s pretty crazy.”
“I always filled out a bracket,” Iowa sophomore forward Luka Garza said. “I had some daycare program after school and I would always make the counselors put the games on, so I’d just sit there and watch right after school ended.”
For senior Nicholas Baer, it was the tradition of attending the NCAA regionals around the Midwest that he remembers most.
“I always went with me, my family friend, and my brother would go to just the closest one,” Baer said. “Milwaukee, Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City a couple times…”
The intrigue of basketball in March is built on special performances by various collegiate stars. And whether it was last year or a decade ago, it’s something these current Hawkeyes will never forget.
“When I was a junior or senior in high school we were in the Bahamas when Buddy Hield made his run,” Kriener said.
“I was a huge Tyler Hansbrough fan when I was real little.” Garza said.
“Jimmer Fredette when he just killing everybody in the tournament pulling up from half court,” said Iowa junior guard Maishe Dailey.
And starting Friday, they’re hoping to create a memorable moment for fans across the nation. Many of them will be getting their first taste of March Madness Friday morning at 11:15 as they tip off against Cincinnati.